West Las Vegas was historically a proving ground for many of a young musician. Ray Anthony, Lionel Hampton, Sy Zenter and others picked a spot at one of the six clubs on Jackson Street in Las Vegas on Monday nights and jammed, because most musicians were off on Mondays.
Those old days still live on in Las Vegas at the Huck Daniels Celebrity Jam at 8 p.m. Saturdays in the Fiesta lounge in the El Cortez. Usually the sessions are packed and last until 1 or 2 in the morning, with more than a dozen musicians and vocalist usually taking their turn onstage, providing some of the best “hidden” entertainment in Las Vegas at a price that’s hard to beat: a two-drink minimum.
It has not been easy for the Huck Daniels Celebrity Jam session, which began 19 years ago at the Aladdin, then bounced around to the Maxim, Continental, and the Stratosphere before landing at its present home at the El Cortez.
“Now it’s a struggle to survive,” says guitarist Huck Daniels, who moved to Las Vegas from Reno in 1962. “Back in the day, young musicians with a lot of experience could play smaller clubs till they got up on their instrument and stuff. We don’t have that anymore and as a result you have guys who don’t know how to act on stage.
“About a third or the people here are singers and musicians, the rest are just fans,” Daniels says.